How the Fire & Search and Rescue Can Leverage a 6 Step Small Business Model

Written By: Lance Piatt

We live in a very different world than we did a few years ago and though it appears to be completely off the rails, but incredible events are on the horizon.  I want to suggest we are going to be entering into an age where people and business will flourish; men and women who stake their claim to new beginnings will be looked upon as honorable and those in start ups will be seen as heros.  I also see “time honored” vocations within the government needing to be transparent in how they operate and this I believe will have a trickle down “effect”.  This will open new methods of administration (systems and processes) and this includes outsourcing… which I will mention later.

I have spent the last number years looking at how small business models can be fused into the emergency services sector; fire service and search and rescue primarily.  I have asked, researched and sent out surveys and what I received as feedback was very interesting.  The responses were neither positive nor negative in nature, rather they were ambivalent; Mixed thoughts, emotions and ideas.  This tells me there is a fair bit of confusion as to the future and status of these sector(s).

The synopsis of my thoughts… Emergency Services (and all government agencies) will be required to run and operate within proper business models and with transparency.  Government will begin to shrink as overreach has decimated our ability to “pay”.  Everything under the umbrella of government will be required to prove themselves… and this is good thing.  Many readers of this blog will find themselves possibly in one of a few places…

  1. Building a business of their own
  2. Creating business structures within their current agency
  3. Organizing the system they work in or through

Let’s be clear though, the technical rescue side of things  (Awareness, Operations and Technician) should have its own business model of structure and support.

Let’s work on some definitions first in terms of a serviceable platform of comparison. As shown above, I want to compare the structure of an airplane to that of the administrative process within the Emergency Services (business of rescue).

I will admit, when I introduced this concept I saw some blank stares.  Many understood the concept, but 100% of them admitted that they were never taught/instructed/trained nor encouraged to consider “the business of rescue” as a true business; one with customers, cash flow, budgets, marketing, sales and mission minded.  How many times have you said or heard it said, “we need to be careful with tax payer money?”  This can’t be a glib remark!  Tax payer’s money is serious business and everthing it touches should be done with a “true intent”.  Here are the 6 constructs of a “business”.

  1. Leadership – The most important thing a leader can do is provide a unifying vision to the people they lead.  Key point here… A Mission Statement and a plan to execute it.
  2. Marketing – Clarify the message to the customers (local residents and taxpayers) so they engage with you.
  3. Sales – Forget “selling”, the customer is the hero and inviting them into your story (making it about them) will pay huge dividends when the time comes.
  4. Products – Your product is your service; technical rescue, hazardous materials, EMS, fire prevention, fire suppression, patient transport.  Optimize these “services as products” for profit and understanding that profits can also be savings and resource re-allocation.
  5. Overhead and Operations – Streamline your systems and process with well oiled management and productivity “machinery”.  Labor is THE expense here.
  6. Cash Flow – Businesses run on separate accounts depending on diversification of profit and resource expenditure, emergency services should be no different.

Emergency Services differs from that of small business in many ways. For example, a business mission plan and leadership are typically top-down concepts in business focused on profit and moves through the sections stated above highlighted around economic objectives, but the chain of command within the fire service (for example) is usually based on rank or experience and really doesn’t have a model for measurable profit nor customer service based on economic objectives. Furthermore, overhead and operational costs tend to be much higher for the fire service than they are for businesses, due to stringent safety laws and regulations that must be followed as well as labor costs.

There are advantages to incorporating elements of small business systems and practices into the Emergency Service agencies. A business plan can provide an important overview of how a department functions as well as a roadmap for achieving goals and objectives; similarly, strong leadership can ensure that these plans are implemented effectively over time. Additionally, by using business strategies such as outsourcing and streamlining operations, the emergency service sectors can reduce overhead and operational costs. Utilizing business principles can help make the emergency service more efficient and cost-effective, while still ensuring safety standards outcomes/deliverables are met.

We are in the process of building a new course syllabus specifically designed to help business minded emergency service sector leaders.  This course will show exactly how to run “a parallel economy” and gain ground at every point.  I will let you know when it is released.

Remember, everything in life runs from a P&L statement; this is no such thing as a “non-profit”.  You know what?   Even a mechanical advantage system runs from a “profit and loss” statement.

Here are the same 6 Steps and why failure happens… private or public sectors.

  1. A failure to identify and prioritize economic objectives – these are the only elements that tell you if you are succeeding or failing.
  2. A failure to market products/services with a clear message – everyone on the same page!
  3. A failure to sell in such a way that makes the customer the hero – the recipients are the hero in the story! 
  4. The production of products –  in demand or profitable, if not consider removing or pulling back.
  5. Bloated overhead because of inefficient management and productivity – not everything is required.
  6. A mismanagement of cash and cash flow – lack luster equipment or a lack of trained personnel is always a smoking gun.

However, by implementing and installing a true profitable business model and practice, private or public sectors alike will be streamline the products and services, the customer base will not only understand the services and products provided, but feel secure in that they are heard and honored.

Peace on your Days



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